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Spurs organization has lesson for Cowboys


  As we have admired the exceptional play of the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs, here’s a question for Dallas Cowboys fans:  Who is Peter Holt?  

I’m a casual basketball fan, so perhaps I’m less knowledgeable than many readers, but my guess is that relatively few outside of San Antonio can identify Peter Holt as the owner of the Spurs.   Breathes there the man or woman who hasn’t heard the name of the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones? Perhaps there’s a lesson here.

The Spurs’ fifth NBA championship arguably makes them the most successful pro sports franchise in Texas history.  Yes, the Cowboys have five Super Bowl trophies, but the last one was 18 years ago.  And the Spurs’ only NBA Finals loss was last year to Miami; no disgrace, but the Cowboys have lost three Super Bowls.  How do the Spurs do it?  The truth is their model closely resembles the one that used to be followed by the Cowboys themselves.

Here’s a checklist:

  • Owner keeps a low profile, let’s professionals run the team.  Does not appear as a grinning huckster in trashy television commercials.  http://youtu.be/knyMRGVSsE4 This was the wise approach taken by the Cowboys’ original owner, Clint Murchison, Jr.
  • Hire top coach and keep him.  Gregg Popovich has been the Spurs’ head coach since 1996, not quite equal to the 29 years that Tom Landry served as coach of the Cowboys, but getting there.
  • Build through the draft, which is even more difficult in basketball than football.  The Spurs’ big three, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker, are all home-grown talent.  Be creative:  Ginobli and Parker were foreign players.  The Cowboys, under both Landry and Jimmy Johnson, were astute judges of raw talent.
  • Select players of high personal character who “play well with others” and do not as rule show up on the police blotter.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWQ02UEP084  Lurid headlines involving Spurs players are very rare.

A year ago, I wrote:  “The sad thing is that, outside of South Texas, the excellence of the Spurs (who, ironically, had very modest beginnings as the Dallas Chaparrals of the old ABA) remains largely unappreciated.” 

That does appear to be changing, but, still, the Spurs will never be media darlings.  Meanwhile, year after year, the networks fight over the right to televise Jerry’s predictably mediocre Cowboys.  Life’s not fair, or hadn’t you heard?